15 March 2024

Committee report: Barr rejects any more planning changes before election

| Ian Bushnell
Join the conversation
Chief Minister Andrew Barr

Chief Minister Andrew Barr: planning changes had struck the right balance between encouraging new housing and protecting the environment. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has ruled out any substantive planning changes between now and the October election, saying that will be a matter for the next Legislative Assembly.

Mr Barr was commenting on the Assembly committee report into the planning system changes that called for more shifts to the Territory Plan to allow more infill residential development.

It recommended that more zoning changes be allowed in RZ1 and that the Territory Plan be amended to allow higher densities and heights in specific locations in RZ2, RZ3 and RZ4 areas close to local shops and public transport.

In a separate comment, Greens committee member Jo Clay said, “We should allow consolidation of existing blocks to provide two to four-storey townhouses, terraces and low-rise apartments with shared green spaces in and around them.”

She also called for London-like city limits on Canberra to prevent any more urban sprawl and protect the environment from development.

READ ALSO No limit on RZ1 dual occupancy homes under Liberals, says Lee

Canberra Liberals Mark Parton also called on the government to remove the 120 square metre limit on second dwellings developed on RZ1 land 800 sqm or larger, foreshadowing his leader Elizabeth Lee’s announcement on Thursday (14 March) that this would now be Liberal policy going into the election.

Mr Parton said the home size limit would mean few people would take up the development opportunity because it lacked viability. The only result would be to increase the unimproved value of land and the rates taken by the government.

Mr Barr said the system risked becoming overly complicated if it changed every year.

“I have no doubt that this will be an issue that people will want to talk about in the election and will be something that the next Assembly will consider,” he said.

“But there won’t be any substantive planning changes in the six months between now and the election.”

Jo Clay in the Assembly

Greens MLA Jo Clay urged more zoning changes to allow more density in existing suburbs. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Mr Barr said the planning changes had struck the right balance between encouraging new housing and protecting the environment.

He said boosting supply to meet the housing crisis required a range of locations and typologies.

“Housing supply will need to be a combination of some new suburbs, and some more housing in existing suburbs, and housing in our major employment centres and along our transport corridors, so it needs all those areas to contribute.

“The Greens’ position is that there can almost be no new housing and no new suburbs, and the Liberals’ position is that they want to build on everything and just throw away all of the high-quality environmental land we have in our Territory.

“So the position that we’re putting forward, I think, strikes the right balance and will enable us to deliver the housing supply Canberra is going to need, but at the same time, protecting the environment, and ensuring that our suburbs remain great places for people to live in.”

Mr Barr said Canberra already had natural limits to its development, such as a national park, water catchments and areas of high environmental significance.

“But Canberra still has a little room to grow,” he said.

But that doesn’t include west Tuggeranong, which the government views as environmentally significant but which Ms Lee recommitted to exploring as a new suburb on Thursday.

She also said that the government had botched the planning reform process.

The committee report also called for changes to encourage community housing or public housing on underutilised community facility-zoned land and urged the government to explain why land could not be sold at below market value to Housing ACT or community housing providers.

Other recommendations called for greater environmental protections and assurances of green space in densifying areas.

The committee also urged that the National Capital Design Review panel be beefed up so it could assess development proposals in a more timely and efficient manner.

READ ALSO A grand architectural presence sprawled over three levels speaks to the heart in Kaleen

Master Builders ACT CEO Michael Hopkins said the Review Panel would play a critical part in delivering a higher standard built environment, but its full potential cannot be realised if its current resourcing means applications are delayed by six to eight months.

“The MBA welcomes the Committee recommendations, which has supported our calls to allow higher densities in RZ1 zones and areas close to local shops and adjacent public transport and to speed up the National Capital Design Review panel process,” Mr Hopkins said

The committee believes another inquiry should be held into the new Territory Plan in three to five years to gauge what effect the changes have had on planning and development in the ACT.

Overall, the report made 30 recommendations, including some on accountability, improving the clarity of information, and community engagement.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments
devils_advocate9:45 am 18 Mar 24

Could everyone complaining about the RZ1 dual occupancies please remeber:
-dual occupancies have been permitted on single dwelling RZ1 blocks for at least two decades, probably more
-the development controls for RZ1 dual occupancies are quite stringent – both homes single storey, usual setbacks and solar access, and in most cases 35% TOTAL plot ratio for both homes. Very low density.
-the recent change related to separately titling the homes, with a FURTHER limitation that limits the second dwelling to 120m2
-TLDR: the panic and outraged is misplaced

You’re right about large RZ1 blocks long being able to host a second dwelling (granny flat).

The real issue is that the ACT government and planning executive made a big song and dance that their new strategy would deliver up to 45,000 new houses due to their signature new planning policy focused on RZ1 blocks.
It’s yet another case of the ACT government talking a big game on new housing and land development, but not delivering on their positive sounding promises.

devils_advocate7:58 pm 19 Mar 24

There’s a range of reasons why nobody will take up the RZ1 subdivision change, which further supports my argument that people should stop worrying about it changing the nature of their suburb

Every block in our suburb is 800 plus metres. It was designed that way over 30 years ago and houses sited on the land to take advantage of its size and create a peaceful living space as well as allowing children to play safely in the garden. Most of them do not have 120 sqm spare to build anything. But Barr doesn’t consider any of that. All he wants is a congested metropolis so he can charge more in rates and taxes, yet he remains utterly incompetent when it comes to anything financial as well as maintenance issues. So far as community consultation is concerned, when will that occur. I just hope he gets thrown out of office as he’s stuffing this place up big time.

“Most of them do not have 120 sqm spare to build anything.”

So they don’t.


Are you finding this difficult?

In the opening half of your spiel you raised no problem, yet still you appear not to understand that, so you moan away in your usual terms.

So if you like to keep your 800 plus metres to yourself, you are entitled to. Nobody is forcing you to do anything. But I as your neighbour wish to build two new homes on my 800 plus metres, which I feel is too big for only one dwelling. How does that affect you?

Tom McLuckie9:49 am 16 Mar 24

Our absolute leader has decreed no changes unless he says so. That pesky cross party Committee making recommendations usurping his authority.

Capital Retro12:44 pm 21 Mar 24

The only plan he hasn’t revealed is how is going to escape to South America.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.